Who “owns” your organization’s workforce safety program?

If you can answer that question with a single name, title, or department, I’ve got some bad news for you: you’re thinking about safety all wrong.

When safety is in the hands of one person, or siloed in a cluster of offices, it’s not really safety—not the kind that anchors a safety culture. This isn’t a matter of semantics. As regular readers of our blog know, a safety culture is more than a lofty ideal or a piece of business jargon. It’s a real, measurable phenomenon—and the key ingredient in preventing falls, spills, and other common, costly workplace incidents.

For a safety culture to exist, it needs to be, well, cultural. It should materialize in every action taken by every member of the organization, from leadership to frontline employees. As Dave Blanchard writes in a recent Safety + Health magazine article, “[a] safety culture doesn’t start and end with a designated manager—it’s everybody’s responsibility to be a safety leader.”

To illustrate this point, Blanchard points to multinational engineering firm ThyssenKrupp, which has implemented a company-wide Safety and Leadership Development Program. According to ThyssenKrupp senior VP and general counsel Kevin Backus, “the course is about safety, but it’s more about leadership”:

“You need organizational buy-in that you’re not only going to invest in safety, but also in developing safety leaders. … You don’t have to leave safety just in the hands of EHS professionals. It’s one thing to tell somebody to do something, but quite another to give them the tools to get that accomplished. The perfect place to start with a corporate cultural transformation is safety.”

Read “We’re All in This Safety Thing Together.”

I’ll ask again: Who “owns” your organization’s workforce safety program?

The answer shouldn’t be “Nancy” or “Steve” or even “that team of people over there.” It should be “everyone who works here—because we’re all responsible for each other’s safety.”
Ready to move on from empty words and put a real safety culture into practice? Start here.

Toby Graham manages the marketing communications team at KPA. TOBY GRAHAM